IACP Quick Take: 8 tips for reducing stress for cops, their families, amid unrest
Police families can often become a forgotten community in need of support – here are some ways to comfort them and yourself
Denver (Colo.) Deputy Chief David Quinones, along with psychologists Sara Garrido and John Nicoletti, gave a presentation at the 122nd annual International Association of Chiefs of Police Conference (IACP 2015) about the importance of supporting law enforcement families during periods of community unrest.
In one of the most difficult periods of time for law enforcement, police families can often become a forgotten community in need of support. Garrido and Nicoletti have worked with police agencies and communities during times of crisis, such as in the aftermath of the Columbine shooting and the Aurora theater massacre.
Deputy Chief Quinones has experienced first-hand how community outrage can tear an agency apart —citing the defacing of a police memorial and the in-fighting that followed over the department’s response to the crime. All three presenters provided recommendations for cops, their families and their agencies on how to maintain wellness and safety during these periods.
1. If the increased level of stress on the job is exhausting you, tell your family that you may need more time to recover when you get home than they usually expect.
2. Don’t let the constant media reporting of high-profile incidents fool you into thinking no one supports cops. Cynicism left unchecked and without balance can severely harm a cop’s mental and physical wellness.
3. Privacyforcops.org, a resource recommended to Garrido and Nicoletti from a number of officers they have worked with, is an organization that guides officers through the process of having their personal information removed after it’s been posted in a public domain.
4. Officers need to stress to their family members the importance of strict privacy settings on social media.
5. If your child is concerned that someone may hurt you, work with them by asking what they need to be reassured of your safety. Explain to them the many police practices that are intended to keep you safe and talk to them about who your child should go to in the event someone makes a threat.
6. An agency’s social media page is one of the best tools for connecting with the community, quelling anger, and humanizing police.
7. Work with your local schools on organizing a day for police to visit the students for a friendly Q&A.
8. Police family nights, kids’ academies, and citizens’ academies are all events that an agency can hold in order to help police families or the public better understand what police officers do.
Deputy Chief Quinones shared a story with the audience of the moment when his daughter became truly aware of the dangers cops face on patrol. After a children’s television news program aired in his daughter’s classroom that featured an anti-police protests in New York, Quinones had to face a difficult question head-on: “Daddy, do people want to hurt you?”
In a time where the negative police attention seems constant, it’s highly unlikely that you will be able to shield your family from the realities of the job. That’s why it’s important to be proactive in letting your family in to the profession — shedding light on both the difficulties of the job (hyper-vigilance, unpredictability of the work, public scrutiny) and the safety of the job (show your family a few training videos, let them feel the sturdiness of your body armor).